Sending man out into space hasn't really gotten more cost-effective over the decades. Sure, we don't waste as many billions on disposable rocket stages as we used to, but again, the amount of energy needed to send a man (or woman) into orbit just costs too much time and resources.
NASA, thanks to its recent budget cuts, is trying to get around the loss of money without getting caught up this year's favorite pastime. In effect, doing something for the good of humanity, with a smaller budget than killing suspected terrorists. NASA's solution? Launch a craft to hypersonic speeds with a gigantic electromagnetic railgun, then have an air-propelled scramjet take over after launch.
The proposed launch method will definitely help NASA keep costs down while continuing on our path to learn more about our universe. Plus, you can't go wrong with a launch mechanism that involves using electromagnetic energy to fling a spacecraft at about Mach 3.
[source: Popular Science]